“We have the upmost respect for Mike Modano,” Nieuwendyk said. “He will always be a huge part of this hockey club. He is a great teammate and a great person. Mike is the face of this franchise. That’s what makes this decision so hard.”
Nieuwendyk and his hockey staff have had many meetings internally over the last few months about the team, roster and identity – for now and moving forward. He has also met with Modano several times to discuss his future since the season ended.
“Mike is unclear on whether he will retire or not, and still may decide to play next season. After assessing our roster and where we need to go as a hockey team, we have decided to not offer Mike a contract and allow him to explore free agency on July 1. If Mike decides that he would like to play with another team, we support his wishes. That’s part of the reason behind the timing of this announcement; we wanted to be up-front with Mike and give him the option to explore playing for other clubs on July 1 if he chooses.”
Nieuwendyk feels that it is time for the Stars’ younger players to take on bigger roles in the forward lines.
“We have a good number of young guys who are hungry and ready for bigger roles on our team. That’s a big part of this decision. These players are ready to step up and play important minutes. We need them to continue their improvement and development if we are to get to where we want to be as a hockey club.”
Nieuwendyk said that this decision did not come overnight. It was reached after many discussions and reflection.
“This is as tough a decision as a general manager can make, but it comes with the job. I have to put the team first and do what I feel is in best interest of the team. Again, I have the upmost respect for Mike. I spoke with him about this decision yesterday at length.”
While Modano’s playing days as a Dallas Star are now officially over, Nieuwendyk is very interested in having him involved with the hockey club in the front office.
“I also feel that Mike needs to be involved with our franchise,” he said. “While I think it is time for him to stop being a player for the Stars, we plan on talking with our future new owner about a role that would best fit the interests of Mike and the organization. We’re not sure what that is yet, but I can tell you that we want Mike to be very involved, when he is ready. If he goes on to play for another team, we want him to return to the Stars when he is finished and remain a large part of what we do.”
Nieuwendyk understands that this is not a popular decision and some fans will be disappointed.
“I truly understand how the fans feel about Mike and we all appreciate what he has done for this franchise,” he said. “But all players have to face this day; Emmitt Smith is a perfect example, as is Joe Montana, Troy Aikman or Ray Bourque.
“I know what Mike is going through. When you turn 40 and you face the end of your playing career, it is very hard to let go. I don’t blame him for being undecided and possibly wanting to continue. But this is a hockey decision and we feel it is in the best interests of our roster. I stand by that and I believe that.”
Nieuwendyk knows what Modano means to this franchise and said what we all feel.
“We wish Mike the very best and thank him for his incredible contributions to the Dallas Stars. There never will be another Mike Modano. It is our goal to have him continue doing great things for this franchise in the front office, and we look forward to making that a reality someday.”
Modano is the Stars’ franchise leader in several statistical categories, including games (1,479), goals (557), assists (802), points (1,359), power play goals (156), shorthanded goals (29), game-winning goals (92), shots (4,194), and highest +/- in one season (+43 in ’96-97).